112-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Footprints In Utah Possibly Damaged

By Dani Medina

February 5, 2022

Photo: U.S. Bureau of Land Management

Paleontologists and scientists have called on the Utah Bureau of Land Management to halt construction at the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite in Moab, Utah, after social media reports say 112-million-year-old dinosaur footprints may have been damaged.

The Center for Biological Diversity filed a cease-and-desist letter to the Utah Bureau of Land Management to stop construction in the area. On Wednesday, Utah BLM released a statement that said it would cease construction, according to Deseret News.

A visitor at the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite posted on Twitter, outraged at the fact that the Utah Bureau of Land Management was working on the land. "I’m just curious why @BLMUtah would park a bulldozer on one of North America’s top dinosaur track sites? Why would they rip out a board walk and attempt to replace it with something much heavier and without a paleontologist to supervise?" Utah resident Jeremy Roberts said. Roberts also shared photos of what appears to be tire tracks driving on the dinosaur footprints. Another local, Sue Sternberg, first reported the damage, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

The Utah Bureau of Land Management is working on a construction project to install a new metal and concrete walkway, according to The New York Times. This specific section of dinosaur footprints in jeopardy were discovered in 2009, according to Smithsonian Magazine. Utah BLM built a raised wooden boardwalk in 2013 so visitors could see the dinosaur tracks without damaging the land. Last year, BLM said it would replace and upgrade it. The agency said it would flag and outline any fragile areas of land that could be inhabited by dinosaur tracks, but local experts said BLM was working without the supervision of a paleontologist.

Utah BLM said a paleontologist would be present when construction resumes, according to Deseret News.

According to Science, 20-30% of the dinosaur tracks have been damaged. State paleontologist for the Utah Geological Survey Jim Kirkland told Science the destruction is most likely confined to the perimeter of the protected area.

"This was a bureaucratic screw-up," Kirkland said.

Utah Bureau of Land Management spokesperson Rachel Wooton told Science heavy equipment is on site, but it wasn't used near the protected land.

“The Moab Field Office is working to improve safe public access with an updated boardwalk that is designed to protect the natural resources of this site. During that effort, heavy equipment is on location, but it is absolutely not used in the protected area," Wooton said in a statement.

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